New & Used Hyundai Azera: In Depth
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The Hyundai Azera is a competitor for the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala, both bringing at least as much style and refinement to the party as the Azera. And Hyundai's own Genesis looms larger in the foreground. Those rivals, however, have all undergone major redos in the time since this generation of the big Hyundai made its debut, a deficiency Hyundai has tried to remedy in mild updates for the 2015 Azera.
Azera is a large four-door sedan that focuses on comfort and amenities, straddling the border between the top of the mainstream car market and the price-conscious end of the luxury class.
The Azera is related to the Hyundai Sonata in the way Toyota's Avalon is paired with its Camry: it's essentially a longer, more plush and stylish alternative that offers some, if not quite all, the premium features of Hyundai's rear-drive Genesis and Equus luxury sedans. The Azera is sold in Hyundai's home market of South Korea as the Grandeur. It is the largest front-drive car offered by the automaker.
MORE: Read our 2015 Hyundai Azera review
The Azera was first introduced in the U.S. in the 2006 model year as the follow-up to Hyundai's first attempts at premium sedans, the XG300 and XG350. Aimed squarely at the Toyota Avalon and mid-size sedans from Buick, the Azera offered mild styling and a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, while other world markets also got the Azera with smaller six- and four-cylinders as well as diesel engines. In the U.S. the sole transmission was a five-speed automatic with Shiftronic controls. Relatively well equipped, and relatively plain inside, the plush-riding Azera sported a base price tag of about $25,000 in its first model year.
While its relaxed handling and subdued styling remained largely unchanged, the first-generation Azera was upgraded over time. New steering-wheel controls arrived in 2007; a new navigation system with voice control showed up in the 2008 model year, along with a new base engine, a 234-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. In 2009, Hyundai adapted the grille on the Azera, added blue backlighting for its gauges, and updated the audio and entertainment controls to include Bluetooth connectivity and iPod controls.
For the 2011 model year the Azera received a light refresh that included a new grille, headlights, LED taillights, and fog lamps, plus "high-gloss" window trim, a new trunk lid design and new alloy wheels. Powertrain changes were more substantial: the V-6 engines in the 2011 Hyundai Azera lineup became more powerful and consumed less gas. The 3.3-liter produced 260 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque (almost as many horsepower as the larger engine the year before) and had fuel economy figures that improved by two in both the EPA city and highway cycles, to 20 mpg city, 28 highway. The larger 3.8-liter V-6 was bumped up to 283 horsepower and 263 pound-feet, with fuel-economy ratings up 2 mpg in the city test and a mile per gallon on the highway, to 19/27 mpg.
Just a year after those changes were made, Hyundai brought a new Azera to our shores. The 2012 model wore the brand's latest styling, updating the Azera to look current with its Elantra and Sonata relatives. A redone interior brought equally fresh design inside, with improved materials and modern technology. This marked quite a 180 for the previously conservative-looking Azera.
Even better, the Azera's dynamics have been brushed up, taking it from cushy to a bit lively in its responses. The Azera's 3.3-liter V-6 makes 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, and its six-speed automatic has a wide range of gear ratios to allow quick takeoffs, strong passing ability, and relaxed cruising.
Compared to the smaller Sonata, the Azera makes a case for its higher price tag by being both more roomy for passengers and cargo and offering more features. All Azeras include a standard rearview camera, as well as navigation, pushbutton start, heat seats front and rear, a 450-watt sound system, and power adjustments for the front seats. The options list includes upgrades sound by Infinity, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, and ambient lighting.
The 2012–2013 Azera is one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Hyundai initially submitted figures of 20/29 mpg for the 2012 model year to the EPA, and 20/30 mpg for the 2013 model year. On a confirmation check of several vehicles, the EPA found the actual tested fuel economy to be 20/28 mpg for the 2012 Azera, and 20/29 mpg for the 2013 Azera. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.
The Azera carried over into the 2014 model year with no significant changes. It has been a slow seller for Hyundai in the U.S., leading some to believe that it might be cancelled soon. But updates came for 2015, with Hyundai giving the model a very mild face lift that includes a new grille, reworked headlights, a new front fascia, and modified taillights. The center stack was also redesigned, and a lot of package content was moved around, with the result being more standard equipment in most models.